‘I’d seen behind the curtain and the horror that was there could not be unseen’

Everyday Vegans
A series in which ordinary people talk about living a plant-based life

Bardo Burner co-editor Karen_WY had been a vegetarian since she was a kid and always saw veganism as the logical next step. It took a while before she took it but there has been no turning back

Everyday Vegan: Karen

I’m a middle-aged primary school teacher, living in London, and I’ve been vegan for almost six years. Turning vegetarian was a split-second decision for me when I was a kid. I watched an afternoon TV show in my early teens, and for the first time I really linked animals to meat. I think they were cows and the programme was nothing to do with animal cruelty, just a show about farms. But something clicked. And when that happens, you really can’t go back.

It was the same with veganism. Inherently I knew that vegetarian was just a first step. I had tried vegan diets from my early 30s, but that click didn’t happen. Maybe I avoided really seeking out the truth, or maybe I just wasn’t ready. For me it was cows again, and the film Cowspiracy was when the connection between the meat industry – which I abhorred – and dairy became clear. I watched it one evening with my husband, and though I had decided I’d eat all the cheese and eggs in the house before ‘turning’, the cognitive dissonance that would have required had vanished. I’d seen behind the curtain and the horror that was there could not be unseen.

For months I was stunned. I was unforgiving. I couldn’t believe that other people didn’t make the connection, despite having been such a person just days earlier. Supermarket trips saw me wandering around in shock. Partly this was a daze at the monstrosity I now felt anything containing eggs and dairy to be. But mostly I was cross. I couldn’t believe how pervasive the dairy industry had become. Milk and its by-products were everywhere. I felt alienated from a society that was routinely treating my fellow creatures as a commodity, with suffering and torture being the fate of almost all animals normally considered livestock.

Everyday Vegan: KarenI went on the second Surge march by myself, and spoke to no one in any depth, but I felt part of it. I listened to Earthling Ed’s  speech calling on us all to do something, and left to begin this blog. A small puff into the ether of cyberspace, but this was the form of activism I felt most useful for me. I think I’ve been a calm and reasonable voice of veganism. I try to remember how deftly I avoided the steps I needed to take to stop using animal products myself and for how long. I’ve been to all the Surge marches since and would have gone again this August too if it weren’t for the Covid-19 pandemic.

My initial anger and alienation abated over time. I am as passionately vegan today as ever and that’s not changing. I avoid looking at too many images and videos of the absolute cruelty of the meat and dairy industry anymore, because I know what happens behind the scenes, and that truth stays with me.

I began the Everyday Vegans column because, though I understand the place from which more extreme animal rights activists come, I feel like those of us who live a more mainstream life aside from our veganism need to be seen. If we, who come from across the world in all ages, shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, can open our eyes and change, anyone can. My hope would be that as more people look into the eyes of animals and recognise what they see there as incredibly familiar, future generations will evolve to a point where they look back at this time and the way we treated other earthlings with complete incredulity.

If you are interested in sharing your thoughts in our Everyday Vegans slot, please get in touch and we’ll let you know what to do.

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